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by Michael Stewart

“...but something has kept them together: love, company, custom. The weather.”

Couples is a blackly comic sequence of poems that explore the nature of co-dependency – of two people who want to be together, but at the same time cannot help but push each other away.

The layout of the book is itself a commentary on the phenomenon – the poems are placed in their own 'couples', twelve pairs that face each other across the page. Sometimes they exchange a glance, sometimes they stand side-by-side, staring out into the abyss; only when the book is closed, and they are in darkness, do they truly come together.

Originally published on Valentine’s Day 2013, the seven-year itch has brought Michael Stewart back to his old flame for a new edition in 2020; reworking the original poems, and adding a dozen more. The result is an unnervingly perceptive volume, to be shared with your ‘other half’ at your own risk – you may never look at a couple, or each other, the same way again.

“Bleak but wonderful ... familiar, and of course funny.”
— Alan Bennett

“Dark, funny and twisted, but surprisingly tender.”
— A.L. Kennedy


Michael Stewart was born in Salford in 1971, and now lives in Bradford. He is head of Creative Writing at the University of Huddersfield. He is the author of three novels, including King Crow, winner of the 2011 Not the Booker Prize, Café Assassin and Ill Will.

His first collection of short storiesMr Jolly, was published by Valley Press in 2016, and was longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize 2017. His 2013 collection of poetry, Couples, was re-published by Valley Press in a new expanded edition for Valentine's Day 2020.


Edition: Second

Date Published: 2020-02-14

ISBN: 9781912436408

Catalogue Number: VP0160

Number of Pages: 48

Cover design by Jamie McGarry

Cover photograph by the author

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